Sunday, June 1, 2014

On Leadership Potential, Stubbornness, Mutual Exclusivity, and Busy Schedules OR You Want Me To Do What?

I'm, erm, kind of, maybe, eventually, being promoted. At work. That is, I'm on my way to being promoted. This means lots of things. It means better money, which is good. It means more hours, which is good and terrifying (for reasons I'll explain in a moment). It means more responsibility, which is just terrifying. It means I'm not actually terrible at my job, they aren't just keeping me around because they can't find an excuse to fire me (which is a relief, actually, 'cause I personally feel like a screw-up so often that I wasn't sure). I'm not sure I want it, but I've accepted it anyway. The most deeply terrifying thing is that I'm younger, in age and seniority, than everyone I'm being promoted ahead of, which could be......intresting. Bad-interesting.
More hours is terrifying because I'm...busy. I'm taking nine credit-hours this summer, six of which are in the first six weeks. As Daddy put it, sleep is for the weak. I'll be okay. But crazy classes and more hours at work is scary. Very scary.
It's been a long time since I sat with my friends and had good long talks and laughed and caught up on the gossip from the Little Mission. I ran into a handful at Starbucks after I got off work last Wednesday, but I didn't have time to stay long. And, the last time I did, sit with a friend, a very, very dear friend, for a long time, we had a scary conversation. She...doesn't think I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. She thinks I'm supposed to, at least partly, come back. Whether that's not yet or no altogether, I don't know yet. But no. She thinks I'm wasting gifts and not living a fulfilling life and not serving God like I need to be. All true? Maybe. But I've got this insurmountable feeling that I'm just not ready yet, which is something this friend doesn't know and probably wouldn't get. After everything that happened at the Little Mission, and everything that's happened there since I left, I just...God and me have been going through a kind of a rough patch. It was the most emotionally, spiritually draining time of my life, and I've mostly just been trying to figure out which way's the ground and which way's the sky and who I am without the Mission and my work. And all the lines blur and the margins shrink and my Faith and my relationship with the God who made the stars gets kind of mixed and muddled in my head with everything else, with my fears and my dreams and my desires my politics and my nostalgia and my social anxiety and my regrets and it gets hard to keep my eyes on Jesus. But maybe not doing God-work because I don't feel ready is the biggest sin of all and maybe I know that already.
Which brings me to: the New Church, desperately, needs help in their children's ministry. Also, it's on the same side of town that I used to work on with the Little Mission. Ergo, if I got involved, I'd probably see some very familiar faces. I might get to see my babies again. And I could jump in with both feet, and I know God would catch me, and I could get to do something I love and be serving again and be useful again and maybe. But, hours at work. But, hours of school. But, here I am in a bind I never thought I would be - what if I can't make the time? But what if I did, and it means I finally feel like I belong here, at the New Church.
Also, what if ministry isn't about me? (This is, actually, something I already know. I promise. The practice...gets a little sticky.)
And, in the mix with all of this, Mum made a new friend. Who lives in our neighborhood. Who has a daughter. Who's a few years younger than me. This girl knows about me (technically, I think, has my phone number, although I haven't heard from her yet). This girl needs a friend. Mum wants me to reach out to her. I need a friend. I'd like to reach out to her.
(For the flaws in this situation, see point a) busy at work, point b) busy with school, point c) currently unqualified to be of any good to anybody, and point d) [maybe] busy at church, and also the fact that I'm rubbish at making friends with people my own age and am grossly out of practice at mentor-ish-ing.)

Open Letter to Every Kid I Met Last Year

First off, I miss you. Like fire. All the time. Always.
Secondly, I'm still kind of scared I did the wrong thing by leaving you guys. (Even though I know that I know that I know that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing right now).
Thirdly, I pray for you, although maybe not as much as I should. I pray that you're happy and healthy and safe and loved and staying out of trouble and getting to know God better and growing in him and that there's somebody in your life telling you more and more and more about how much Jesus loves you.
If there isn't right now? I just hope you remember. Remember everything you learned when we were together.
And if you don't remember that, remember that you had a friend who loved you, who told you about a Friend who Loves you so, so, so, so much more.
Jesus loves you.
I love you.
I miss you.
I'm sorry.

College and Career OR Well This Was Unexpected

Just under two years ago, I posted this. It was the summer after my senior year of high school, just a month and a half before we moved away from our little county and moved in with my grandparents, about six months before I moved away from home all together to come work at the Little Mission. Feels like much, much longer. In that post, I talked about my experiences with visiting my home church's young adult group. It didn't go so well.
Over the course of the last few weeks, we've, kind of, found a new church. Number fourteen for the 'rents and the sibs, though I'm not quite certain how many of those I've accompanied them to. It's a little Community Church, and the people are kind and real and the worship is good and it's starting to feel like home. Kind of. They, erm, they have a College and Career ministry. I've been going to Sunday School. So far the work schedule has prevented me from doing anything else, but anyway. I kind it. Kind of. There's all these people who are older than me, lots of recent college graduates, lots of looking-for-internships, applying-for-jobs. I'm one of four-ish girls, in a class with, well, a lot of guys. Who talk. A lot. Group discussion is kind of male-dominated, and partially consists of me and this other girl giving each other looks across the circle. But it's good. And fun. I'm still kind of learning the lingo, trying to keep up with names. They've all known each other for a crazy-long time, and that can make one feel, kind of, small. And it's hard to start to feel like a part of a group you only see once a week, which would be different if I could pull off being there at any other time, but so far, nada.
Being with people my own age is one of the things I'm worst at. In youth group, it was the Me-and-Joy show, so everything was easy. Then at the Little Mission, being my typical shy, socially inept self was a non-option, seeing as how I spent every waking moment with the same, like, seven people who were everything to me - friends, family, coworkers, support system, etc. That kind of closeness, the kind that forced me to be me, doesn't happen in a Sunday School classroom. So so far, with the New Church, I've laughed. Giggled. Searched for opportunities to interject a clever or on-topic comment. Succeeded maybe half-a-dozen times. It's hard when they're all telling stories from camp together when they were twelve. I was halfway across the country when they were twelve.
This morning, I laughed very hard at a very funny story. I admitted to having watched the first five minutes of Sharknado. I hummed my agreement to a point in the lesson. I almost volunteered to read, but was beat to it by somebody else. I shared a commiserating glance with the girl I, think, I can call my friend. Progress?
The hardest thing is hoping people can look at quiet and see shy and nervous instead of aloof and arrogant. Can look at hardly-ever-here and see busy, not detached and doesn't care. And the fact that I care what people think when they look at me says one thing - I'm here. It was funny, when Mom asked if I was okay with this church being where we stay, I told her, one-hundred-percent seriously, that I never would've set foot in a Sunday School classroom full of people my own age if I hadn't intended on staying at the church.
Wish me luck?

In Which The Girl (Still) Writes

So, anybody remember that thing I used to do? Like, stringing words together? It used to be the only thing that made any sense. The only thing I was absolutely certain about.
Thing is, I've been caught in a slump. Call it permanent writer's block. All my old stories kind of fizzled out over the year I was too busy to work on them, and I've had a hard time picking up the threads. I've been busy with school, and a bit short in the inspiration department. I've been unsure of my own ability, since, as time passes, I keep looking back at things I wrote that I thought were marvelous at the time, and realizing that they're sort of rubbish. I'm not sure I'll ever get better. Also, I don't know what I want to write. I've always thought it was YA, but now I'm not so sure. I don't know what I can write that there is room for in the publishing world. I don't know if I really believe in the current model, with a handful of names skyrocketing to fame and movie deals and the rest getting read by, like, thirteen people, half of which they're related to. Kids like me, armed with dreams and a portfolio of half-finished novels and a handful of decent short stories, are a dime a dozen. I'm not so sure my writing is ever going to get me anywhere.
That is, I wasn't so sure. But the weird thing is, things keep happening. Little things that make me feel like I'm being chastised for giving up too soon.
First, Thought Catalog published a personal essay of mine, something I submitted on a whim because I'd written it for myself and it seemed like something their readers might appreciate. Essay proceeded to do well in the likes-and-shares department - not spectacularly well, but comparatively, respectably well. And that felt pretty cool.
Then there's my English teacher. See, homeschooling, I never got any feedback on my academic writing from anyone who wasn't related to me. Wasn't really sure where I measured up in the scheme of things. But this year, my teacher (who's an utterly spectacular lady, by the way), who has nothing to gain or lose by offering her honest opinion, has given me really positive feedback. Like, "You're a natural at this, you've got grace and style, you need to keep writing," positive.
She also gave the whole class a chance at extra credit if we entered the school literary journal's quarterly writing contest. Never one to say no to seven points of extra credit for doing something I love, I entered two pieces (we could enter up to three): the short story about Vincent Van Gogh that I wrote my senior year of high school, and a new piece I'd written for a Figment prompt contest just a couple of months ago. After having entered them, I didn't give it another thought. Until the email showed up in my inbox. Both stories made it to the semi-finals. Not one or the other. Both.
And then, ehm, I won. First place.
Then there's the strangest thing. There's this subculture of Tumblr users, devoted to writing and consuming, devouring, a thing called reader-insert fan fiction. It's written about characters or celebrities, but with the "reader" acting as a character in the story. It's written in the second person. Have you ever tried to sustain writing in the second person? Ugh. But anyway, I stumbled across this subculture one day, and I wondered if I could do it. If I could pull it off. Second person, yes. Also, writing to a very specific audience. Screw up the characterization of the character you're working with, and you find yourself with angry fangirls on your hands. Also, for a reader to allow you to recruit them into your story requires trust, which you break if you take the reader-character too far into its own personality. Any reader has to be able, not only to identify with, but become this character. This character has to be literally everyone who reads it, not only as they are, but as they'd like to see themselves. Egos are funny things. Is it great, high literature? No. If Really Great Literature is a four-course meal, this brand of fan fiction is, like, chocolate and morphine. But it's a challenge, and it's fun, and it requires minimal commitment. Even by the standards of the blog I submitted it to, it's been popular. I'm going to have to finish the story.
So, I guess, the girl still writes. What does that look like? No clue. Zip. Zilch. Nada. But, erm, I guess we'll find out.